1310 KDIA Radio “Lucky 13”
The Complete Collection
For twenty-five years, the call letters KDIA were synonymous with soul music in the Bay Area. Descended from the pioneering Oakland station KLS — which itself was born from an early experimental station, 6XAM, in 1921 and became KWBR in 1945 — the 1,000-watt station had begun emphasizing programs that targeted the local African-American audience around the end of World War II.
By the late 1950s, while still known as KWBR, the station was competing with KSAN/1450 in San Francisco for black listeners with rhythm-and-blues music and popular disc jockeys, including Big Don Barksdale and Bouncin’ Bill Doubleday. In July 1959, KWBR was sold for $550,000 to the Sonderling Stations group, operator of the legendary Memphis station, WDIA. On September 4, 1959, KWBR became KDIA, reflecting its new parentage. (Sonderling also owned KFOX in Los Angeles and WOPA in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park.)
Under Sonderling ownership and the management of Walter Conroy, KDIA directed its full programming effort toward the emerging black audience, keeping Don Barksdale and Bill Doubleday on its staff and adding high-caliber talent over the years that included Bay Area Radio Hall of Famer George Oxford (previously a competitor at KSAN), John Hardy, Belva Davis (later known for her television work at KRON, KPIX and KQED), Rosko (nom de radieux of William Roscoe Mercer), Roland Porter, Bob White, Bill Hall, Johnny Morris and Bob Jones. The station leveraged its dial position — 1310 AM — into its identity as “KDIA Lucky 13.”
In 1965, KDIA’s power was raised to 5,000 watts from a new transmitter facility near the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza which also housed the station’s new studios and offices. The five-fold increase in power made KDIA a veritable powerhouse and helped to hasten the demise of the old KSAN, which had become KSOL in 1964. (Going full circle, it was another KSOL — this time on 107.7 FM — that would eventually end KDIA’s supremacy in the late 1970s.)
In September 1969, John W. Doubleday — “Bouncin’ Bill” — became KDIA’s general manager, a position he held until September 1974, when J. Walter Carroll assumed the role. Mr. Carroll served as KDIA’s general manager until his death on January 20, 1976; Kernie L. Anderson became the station’s GM in 1977.
The station thrived through the 1970s, but was sold by Sonderling to Viacom International in 1980. KDIA continued with an Urban Contemporary music format under Viacom until 1983, when the station was sold again (along with WDIA) to Ragan Henry. In 1984, KDIA changed hands once more, becoming the property of Adam Clayton Powell III, who flipped the station to All News KFYI.
After the failure of KFYI’s news format, the station went off the air on April 9, 1985, only to be revived under new ownership as KDIA in October of that year. In subsequent years, the station was owned by future San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris, and by James Gabbert, who had also owned KIOI and KOFY.
In 1997, Mr. Gabbert entered into an agreement to air the syndicated “Radio Disney” programming format on KDIA in advance of selling the station to ABC, Inc. The station’s call letters were changed to KMKY on January 20, 1998, and ABC purchased the station for $6.25-million in May 1998.
The KDIA call letters are currently assigned to the religious-formatted station known as “The Light For San Francisco,” licensed in the city of Vallejo and operating at 1640 kHz.
Oakland’s KDIA Lucky 13 Radio
Bill “Rosko” Mercer on KDIA (Dec. 28, 1962; Part 1):
Bill “Rosko” Mercer on KDIA (Dec. 28, 1962; Part 2):
A raw and extraordinary hour-and-a-half of “The Burgie Show” with the Poet Laureate of Soul, captured by Steve Robbins on reel-to-reel tape. Despite numerous discontinuities, the greatness of Rosko and the incredible spirit of KDIA comes through in vivid detail.
George Oxford on KDIA (February 22, 1963):
Bill “Rosko” Mercer on KDIA (1964):
In a jazzy rap, Rosko laments his whirlwind schedule, which finds him constantly flying between his radio gigs in Oakland and Los Angeles. Courtesy of Pat Maestro.
Don Barksdale on KDIA (1964):
A rare but lamentably short clip featuring Bay Area radio’s original “Big Daddy.” Courtesy of Dave Billeci.
Bob White on KDIA (June 1966):
John Hardy on KDIA (Summer 1966):
Courtesy of Ben Fong-Torres.
John Hardy on KDIA (July 12, 1966):
Plus news with Louis Freeman. Courtesy of Ben Fong-Torres.
Mike Shepherd on KDIA (Summer 1967):
Boss Soul Radio’s wake-up man, recently in from Monterey, presides over the morning’s festivities. Courtesy of Michael C. Gwynne (a/k/a Mike Shepherd).
KDIA: The Death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Thursday, April 4, 1968):
KDIA suspends regular programming to pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the night he is murdered in Memphis. Interspersed between gospel music and recordings of Dr. King’s speeches is the voice of KDIA’s Wally Ray. The ethereal “long-distance” sound of the broadcast is attributable to it having been recorded near Sacramento, well outside KDIA’s primary coverage area.
— Exhibit includes text and audio. — Audio presentation only. — Edited (scoped) audio. — Poor or fair audio quality.
BFT — Courtesy of Ben Fong-Torres. DB — Courtesy of Dave Billeci. MG — Courtesy of Michael C. Gwynne.
PM — Courtesy of Pat Maestro. SR — Courtesy of Steve Robbins.
I enjoyed listening to these old radio clips, I was twelve in 1967 living in Rancho Cordova but my dad would always drive down to San Francisco and in 1983 i moved to San Francisco kDIA was my Radio Station that i listen to all the time.
I grew up in Mill Valley (white as white can be haha)and EVERY morning l’d turn my radio on to KDIA while getting ready for school, Tam High. I LOVED the music, as my father was a follower of Jazz, it past onto me in the form of blues. What disc jockey said “l AM the bruce”? A figment of my imagination or real? I remember saying it all the time hahaha. Stephanie Newhall email@example.com
Remember the Bruce too. He would lead with “great gogamooga, I am the Bruce! Maybe KWBR which became KDIA.
Great cucomunga- l am the Bruce! LOVED IT!!!❤️❤️❤️
SO funny!! It was a hoot!!!❤️❤️❤️
I miss Wally Ray
I grew up in Redwood City.During the 50’s. KDIA was nothing but the best.And the only Radio station for us. Rhythm and blues.,jazz, Blues None of that LA beach party junk!! Never forget cruising El Camino Real ,radio blasting, beating on the dash!!! We use to go from R.C.down to Johns Drive in in San Jose All the way back up to Mel’s in S.F. Cruised threw every drive in (11) Checkin’ out the Babes!! Once in a while we’d even score!! My hang out was Rusty’s in RC. I’ll never forget KDIA and all the fun it was back then.
I worked in an adjacent office to KDIA from 1959-1961. I got to know the morning crew there quite well. Roland Porter had his show in the morning and I would drop off coffee tom him on the way to work. Don Barksdale also usually came in early to record his show.. I lost contact with Roland, when I changed jobs, but have always wondered what became of him. Does anyone know out there? Is he on any social nwtwork like Facebook or Twitter, etc. where I could reach him? If so, please let me know. I,ve thought of him often and would love to say hello..Thank you…Diana(Mellen)Hyslop
This really takes me home. I grew up in East Oakland and recall hearing me voice on the air when my oldest brother, may his soul rest, called into the station for me to make a request. I was age 7 at the time and now I’m 60 and still remember that day. KDIA was everything to me back then and I thank God that I was able to intern and later work for the station during my broadcast career. The day Bob Jones interviewed and then hired me I broke out in tears on the drive home.
My Aunt was a close friend of Wally Ray.. Nice to see that his memory wasn’t a dream.
Does anyone have BOB JONES’SKATEBOARD SHOW?
Condolences to the family of Bob Jones a legend in the world of radio God bless.
This is wonderful, thank you. Are there any recordings of Bob Jones sign off on the skateboard?